"Caroline" by Old Crow Medicine Show
Unadulterated revivalism, at least in music, is a dicey endeavor: Plainly regurgitating aged tropes can feel disingenuous, lazy, or a little silly. But Old Crow Medicine Show—a country-folk-rock-bluegrass ensemble based in Nashville—seems mostly unconcerned with bowing to hallowed sonic ground. Instead, it synthesizes a century of acoustic Appalachian tradition into a weird, feisty hybrid. Tennessee Pusher nods to old-time string bands, but (much like outlaw country) favors mischief over sanctity: There's banjo, twang, slide guitar, and a guy named "Critter," but not a whole lot of do-good preaching.
Indeed, while these dudes did get together in New York, Tennessee Pusher still feels like an appropriate title for an album that could easily be heard as a concept piece about addiction: Vocalist Ketch Secor repeatedly references cocaine, Percocet, huffing paint, "down-home, Dixie-fried, homegrown, Alabama high-test," and methamphetamine. But the band also trades in broad Dukes Of Hazzard stereotypes, with tracks about eating ribs, mining coal, and the Southern gentleman's holy quadrangle ("wine, whiskey, women, and guns"). And OCMS's scrappy, fervent playing—live, the band is a mesmerizing mess of strings and sweat—reinvents old-time for a whole new generation.